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Kramer is unlikely to crack the Opening Day lineup because of a crowded middle infield picture, DK Pittsburgh Sports reports.
Both Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman - two players battling for the starting shortstop job - are capable of backing up Adam Frazier at second base, as are journeyman Nick Franklin and Pablo Cruz. Kramer struggled immensely upon making his major-league debut in September, batting .135 with 20 strikeouts in 40 at-bats. Still, the 24-year-old has hit well throughout his time in the minor leagues and will likely get another chance - just not at the beginning of 2019. "Kevin Kramer has not forgotten how to hit," said general manager Neal Huntington. "He isn't the first good hitter to come up and struggle his first time at the major-league level." While Kramer is primarily a second baseman, he offers versatility as a potential backup at both shortstop and third base. He was one of only three International League players to reach double digits in both homers (15) and steals (13) in 2018 while slashing .311/.365/.492.
Ballage's work ethic and athleticism have made a strong impression on running backs coach Eric Studesville, one of the few holdovers from the old coaching staff in Miami, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports. "[Ballage]'s a big, physical body," Studesville said. "He can run. He's athletic. He's got a lot of growth to do as far as seeing and recognizing things. His work ethic is tremendous. He's got speed for a big man."
A size-speed freak with subpar college production, Ballage was selected at No. 131 overall (fourth round) in the 2018 NFL Draft and spent most of his rookie season playing special teams. He finally got his shot on offense when Frank Gore suffered a season-ending foot injury Week 15, immediately responding with a 75-yard touchdown scamper against Minnesota. The rookie averaged just 3.3 yards on his 35 other carries and 6.2 yards on nine catches, with 12 of his 45 touches (27 percent) going for no gain or a loss. The hit-or-miss style isn't optimal in an offense that already has Kenyan Drake doing a better version of the same thing, but the 237-pound Ballage does at least have theoretical potential to develop into a between-the-tackles grinder if he can improve his vision, toughness and upright running posture. He seems to have support from Studesville, but there's no guarantee other members of the overhauled Miami coaching staff will agree. We'll have a better read on Ballage's dynasty value once the Dolphins start to make some moves during the offseason.
Martinez will not be allowed to throw for two weeks, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports.
The Cardinals are concerned that Martinez's arm strength is not where it should be, though an MRI taken Monday revealed no structural damage, Langosch reports. That suggests he's unlikely to miss a large portion of time, though he'll still need to build back up following the two-week period, leaving him less than a month to get ready for Opening Day. Martinez made three trips to the disabled list last season while battling shoulder, oblique and lat issues, so it's certainly disconcerting to see those issues beginning again so soon this season.
Dolphins running backs coach Eric Studesville doesn't know if Gore (foot) will be offered another contract, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports. "The biggest thing with Frank is let's get Frank healthy and then we will cross all those other bridges," Studesville said.
The Dolphins got a nice return on a one-year, $1.02 million contract in 2018, with the 35-year-old averaging 4.6 yards on 156 carries, though he didn't score any touchdowns before suffering a season-ending foot injury Week 15. The injury isn't expected to require surgery, so Gore should be able to enjoy relatively normal offseason preparation if he wants to continue his football career. The new coaching staff in Miami might not view him as a good fit for the rebuilding process, as Gore's presence could block Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage from seeing more touches.
Running backs coach Eric Studesville said Drake never complained about his lack of carries (7.5 per game) during the 2018 season, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports.
One of the few holdovers from the old coaching staff, Studesville said he doesn't want Drake to change his all-or-nothing running style -- something former head coach Adam Gase implied was a primary reason 35-year-old Frank Gore (foot) handled 11.1 carries per game. Gase does have a point that Drake was often stopped for a loss -- 15 percent of carries in 2018 -- but the 25-year-old made up for it with a plethora of big plays, ultimately averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 9.0 per catch with a team-high nine TDs on 173 touches (53 receptions). The new coaching staff would be wise to put the ball in Drake's hands more often, though Miami does have 2018 fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage to absorb some of the rushing volume if Gore moves on or has his role reduced. Studesville said he doesn't know if Gore will be offered another contract.
Blount isn't expected to re-sign with Detroit before the start of the new league year in March, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Coming off a 2018 campaign in which he managed just 2.8 yards per carry, the 32-year-old running back likely will need to compete for a roster spot wherever he ends up. There's also some chance Blount could simply retire, as his age, recent production and lack of pass-game skills will make it difficult to land a contract for significantly more than the veteran's minimum. The Lions figure to go in a different direction in their search for backfield depth behind Kerryon Johnson (knee).
Chavez credits a tweak he made in his delivery that produced a career-best 2.55 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 2018, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
While still with the Rangers early in 2018, at the behest of pitching instructor Hector Ortiz, Chavez lowered his arm angle slightly and released the ball more like an infielder. This resulted in an uptick in velocity and more movement on his fastball. From that point until he was traded to the Cubs on July 19, the right-hander compiled a 2.31 ERA while holding hitters to a .215 batting average in 35 innings. The success continued with the Cubs, for whom he had a 1.15 ERA in 39 innings. Back with the Rangers in 2019, Chavez figures to be a key piece of the back end of the bullpen.
The Rangers recently signed veteran Ben Revere to a minor-league contract and have discussed using Joey Gallo in center field, but Woodward put to rest any thought of DeShields in a backup role. "He's a dynamic player," Woodward said. "He's worked really hard. If he gets right, he could be the catalyst for our team. He puts a lot of pressure on defenses." There was some doubt DeShields would be around in 2019 after he plunged to a .216 batting average and .310 on-base percentage last season. Wanting to be more than an on-base guy, DeShields' plate approach got messed up as he tried to lift the ball more, The 25-year-old was twice demoted to the minors as a result. Coaches have worked on getting him to hit more line drives and groundballs, so that he can be the catalyst Woodward talked about.
Reddick worked off a batting tee placed on the outer third of plate Monday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
Reddick endured his worst season in 2018, when his .718 OPS represented a drop of 129 points from the previous season. The problem, according to Reddick, was a focus on the inner third of the plate. That led to more extreme shifts because he wasn't a threat to hit the other way. The 31-year-old outfielder pulled 36 percent of his batted balls in 2017, when he had a career-high .847 OPS, but his pull rate increased to 45 percent in 2018. The left-handed hitting Reddick is expected to open the season as the starting right fielder but with top position prospect Kyle Tucker on the precipice of the majors, Reddick could quickly lose plate appearances if he shows no improvement in plate coverage.
Mountcastle was spotted going through drills at first base during Monday's workout, Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports.
Mountcastle was drafted in 2015 as a shortstop, and after transitioning to third base for the 2018 season, it appears he could be in line for another position change. The 22-year-old insisted that the shift to first base isn't permanent just yet, although, given his impressive bat, first base may be the quickest path to the big leagues for the former first-round pick. "It was just trying to get me to play more positions," stated Mountcastle. "Flores had me working there the last few days, just trying to get comfortable with it so whenever they need me out there at first, they can put me out there and feel confident."